Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton planners approve plat for Nekus retirement village

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The second time was the charm for developer John Nekus.

At its meeting Thursday night, the Chesterton Advisory Plan Commission voted 7-0 to approve the primary plat for Nekus’ Duneland Prairie retirement village, not quite one year after planners split-voted to recommend against his proposed planned unit development on the same 11.28 acres located behind the Chesterton Post Office and immediately east of the Westchester South subdivision.

Thursday’s vote followed a public hearing at which three persons spoke in favor of the retirement village and seven against it, although for the most part the seven remonstrators appeared less agitated than those who earlier this year opposed Nekus’ original PUD.

Nekus’ attorney, Greg Babcock, in a thorough and detailed presentation, argued that the property in question--zoned B-3--“lends itself to the retirement village concept” and in particular fits the 2002 Zoning Ordinance’s definition of “retirement village.”

That definition: “A business venture for the establishment of a retirement village for senior citizens that will provide for the privacy of the individual residents in private dwelling units but also including such basic services as barber shops, beauty shops, gift shops, pharmacies, and a centralized kitchen and dining area.”

More: “A retirement village must also meet all of the following criteria: (1) have a centralized kitchen and dining area to accommodate all occupants of the facility, (2) have a full-time staff member on site; (3) comply with all ADA requirements; (4) have a maximum of two persons per unit; and (5) at least one occupant of each unit must be 55 years of age.”

Nekus plans to build 21 separate duplexes--a total of 42 residential units--20 fewer duplexes than Nekus proposed for the original PUD. Babcock said that the target demographic is the aging Baby Boomer looking to live an “active life” and own his or her own home, without the need, however, to mow the lawn or clear snow, chores which the homeowners association (HOA) will undertake.

Babcock pointed specifically to the variety of amenities within easy walking distance of the site: Tiger Lily, Danny O’s, and the Chesterton Post Office.” He added that the site is also “somewhat secluded,” which many folks would find appealing.

In newly amended covenants, moreover, the community building required under the Zoning Ordinance definition would feature a “commercial grade kitchen” and a dining room capable of seating 84 people: the total population of the project when built out. But no actual or regular meal service is envisioned at this time; residents will be able to avail themselves of the kitchen for their own use should they desire.

The HOA would also be the enforcement authority, to ensure that at least one resident of each unit is 55 or older. Should a resident of that age have a younger partner, and then that older resident dies, the younger partner would have to sell the unit and leave the retirement village, Babcock said. The HOA would give the younger partner a “reasonable” amount of time to sell but nevertheless he or she would be required to sell.

Babcock did want to make one thing clear: although the B-3 rear-yard setback is 10 feet, a 20-foot rear-yard utility and drainage easement is required under Town Code. When coupled with the 25-foot R-2 rear-yard setback in place at Westchester South, a full 45 feet of separation between the retirement village’s duplexes and Westchester South’s single-family homes will be effected.

Public Comment

Three people spoke in favor of the retirement village. Local builder Paul Shinn called “the option to own homes close to amenities is a great option” and added that “you can age in place” at Duneland Prairie.

Rob Carstens, a Porter resident, said that for his part he likes the smaller units as a way to “simplify” as he ages. “I think it’s a great product.”

Jim Jeselnick, a Westchester South resident himself, said that Duneland Prairie would complement nicely the nursing homes recently opened in town. “We don’t need another assisted living. We don’t need more apartments. We don’t want some of the businesses that could go in a B-3 zone.”

Seven person spoke either against the retirement village or expressed concerns.

Of the latter, most feared the impact the development would have on drainage. Robert Sexton wanted to know the elevation of the detention pond. “Are there provisions to keep me from being flooded?” he asked “Let’s do this right with flood control.”

Jeff Wozniak, sexton at the St. Patrick Cemetery, worried about the impact of additional flow from the Pope O’Connor Ditch--which the detention pond will empty into--on the banks of Coffee Creek.

Tom Byrnes echoed Sexton. “I’ve never had a problem with water and I want to keep it that way,” he said.

Linda Vogt, a resident of Richter Street to the north, repeated her concerns about drainage expressed earlier this year, namely, that “the water will have nowhere to go.”

Ruth Morisette, on the other hand, mourned the clearing of the woods behind her home which construction would require. “You call it a prairie,” she said. “What? Is that some kind of joke? Because you’re taking away the prairie. We need to think about nature.”

Tom Albano spoke of the coyotes, deer, red foxes, and owls which shelter in those woods. “You can call it retirement village,” he said. “I call it a duplex village. When you’re backing up to duplexes, it’s not desirable.”

David Hartford, finally, a resident of South Second Street, expressed concerns about traffic and the likelihood that the secondary access--off Richter Street, immediately east of South Second Street--would be the most popular ingress and egress point. “It’s a quarter mile between Jefferson Ave. and Richter Street,” he said. “That’s one long strip of traffic and we’ve got lots of children coming through there.”


The bulk of Babcock’s rebuttal was devoted to the matter of stormwater drainage. The property generally drains from north to south and into the Pope O’Connor Ditch. The detention pond will be built to collect runoff under the specifications of the Zoning Ordinance--meaning it will be capable of handling the runoff from a 100-year rain event--and it will be sloped for an easterly flow, away from Westchester South to the west.

In addition, rear-yard stormwater drains will be installed for each duplex and while there is nothing Duneland Prairie’s stormwater system will be able to do about the runoff on the north side of Richter Street, it should capture that on the south side.

As to the clearing of the woods, Babcock admitted he “didn’t have a good answer for the deer and foxes.” But, he said, “It is a developable piece of land.”


Planner George Stone wanted to know this specifically, directing his query to Associate Town Attorney Connor Nolan: “Is this project in full compliance with B-3 zoning,” with regard to the kitchen and dining room in the community building.

“Our opinion is that the proposal would satisfy the requirements for the B-3 zone for this particular use,” Nolan said.

Tom Kopko similarly pressed Nolan, wanting confirmation that the Zoning Ordinance requires Nekus to build the kitchen and dining area but that they actually “don’t have to be used.” Nolan did so confirm.

Jim Kowalski conceded that he’d begun the meeting fully prepared to vote against the primary plat but was persuaded by Babcock that the project is a good one. “Right now, with what Mr. Nekus has brought to the board, I have to say that he has met the criteria.”

Fred Owens, for his part, observed that B-3 allows for a host of uses which neighbors might find more objectionable than a retirement village; that a property owner “can take out trees if he wants”; and that the concept meets the B-3 definition and moreover that Nekus will need no variance relief to build the duplexes.

“I like the idea of a retirement village,” Jeff Trout said. “Seniors who want to own their own homes. There’s a market for that. They want to live here and stay here for many, many years. I think this is going to meet a niche that just isn’t here now.”

Planners then voted unanimously to approve the primary plat.



Posted 11/22/2019




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